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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 27 May 2017
Disappointed with this documentary/film. Seems it was hyped up, and there appeared to be many inconsistencies. To me the whole documentary appeared 'staged' and this would have been okay if there had been some central message eg the importance of transhumance in rural areas. The goat giving birth was tethered and therefore couldn't nuture/lick her kid after being born - a couple of takes later, the tether was loose. When the goats and kids went out to pasture, it looks like the kid that got stuck in the ditch had its legs tethered (staged so that it couldn't get out and keep up with the herd). The truck ramming the goat pen was improbable. The charcoal burning was interesting - but the whole docu-movie was unsatisfactory and a missed opportunity.
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on 26 June 2017
A film from Italy. No talking as such, but that does not diminish the film for that. A film with no talking is enhanced by other qualities. Really it's a film about a man with goats, a very simple lifestyle which happens around Easter time in the Italian hills. Quiet and peaceful mostly, which can lift our life to higher things.
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on 22 April 2017
Mesmerising - and beautifully packaged!
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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2012
'Le Quattro Volte' is one of the more unusual films you'll have seen for a while - not least because far too few have goats in lead roles.

It appears to be about the simple life of a goatherd, suffering with age and illness but helped by a powerful faith that manifests itself in drinking the sweepings from the floor of a local church. It swiftly broadens in something much more: an observation of the village he lives in and the countryside that supports it, somewhere in southern Italy.

The movie will not be to everyone's taste. Clearly it has not been. There is virtually no story. What there is progresses slowly. With each new section of the movie the narrative elements become less and less important. The human elements diminish - man, goat, tree - but the film takes its time to notice the minute details of life. There is time for the palyfulness of a baby goat, the path of an insect up a tree or twisting shapes of the clouds.

The camera is very often removed from what action there - the viewer deliberately distanced. We are allowed to see what is happening as simply a part of a much wider world. It is reminiscent at times of religious or allegorical art, that very often found time to show us the world in which the events happened and relegated the obvious to the background (Icarus plunges into the sea unnoticed by the ploughman in Breughel's art).

There is virtually no dialogue in this movie. What there is no more significant than the bleating of the goats or the sound of the wind, in terms of your need to comprehend it; or, rather, the other sounds can carry just as much importance.

The photography is stunning. The images, often still, with minimal camera movement. Rarely does film making look so much like painting.

What all of this means is that, like a painting, like art, the viewer has time to consider the images, the significance of what is seen. As the film progresses the viewer has the chance to be removed from him or herself and meditate on life - all life as revealed in the Italian landscape. Does the beat of the charcoal burner's spade reflect the heartbeat of the man? How does the ash from his fire differ from the sweepings of the church floor? What separates the people from the ants that swarm around a lost switch of folded magazine?

D. W. Griffiths, pioneer of the cinema and one of the greatest early directors, complained towards the end of his life that what modern films lacked was "the wind in the trees" - the reflection of life, the serendipity of reality when filmed. He would have loved this film.

You might too - give it a try.
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on 14 August 2017
In a sense this magnificent film can be viewed as a companion piece to Francesco Rosi's equally magnificent "Christ Stopped at Eboli"
Both films are set in a mountaintop village in Southern Italy, Basilicata in "Christ Stopped at Eboli" & Calabria in "Le Quattro Volte"
But while Rosi's film is mainly a human drama Frammartino's film describes the interaction between human, animals and nature, the balance between the simplicity of life & the majesty of nature.
Every episode in this wonderful film is masterly, my favorite being the poignant 'lost baby goat' episode, and the photography of the timber mound near the end of the film could well be the depiction of an artwork by Andy Goldsworthy.
Details compel attention. Near the end of the film a truck delivers charcoal to the villagers. On the left is the goat enclosure but now goatless & overgrown by weeds, which is a gentle reminder of the death of the old goatherd earlier in the film, a subtle reminder without emphasis by centring or zooming in.
This film has the minimalist simplicity of Samuel Beckett or Bela Tarr. It is, except for indistinct background conversations of the villagers, without dialogue, and the story is told solely as a visual sequence. The cinematography is painterly.
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If you enjoy films with a clear-cut plot, snappy dialogue and an obvious beginning, middle and end, then you will probably be left mildly mystified by `Le Quattro Volte'. It's very much a movie in the art house tradition, featuring subtle and beguiling filming which reveals beauty in the mundane reality of rural life, as well as in the spectacular landscape which frames each scene.

The product info about Quattro Volte suggests that you'll be watching a film about an elderly goat-herd who is close to death, and that's true in part. But his story forms just one thread of the four themes of QV, where animal, mineral and vegetable are as important to the whole as is the human component. There's no audible dialogue (so no need to worry about suitable subtitles) and at times the progression of the `plot', such as it is, can be a little obscure. Like life itself, the pace meanders through coincidence, happenstance, the interconnected nature of everything, and is punctured with sublime moments of stillness. The soundtrack reinforces the themes: Dog barks, goats bleat, an old man coughs, charcoal crackles, branches sigh in the breeze.
If this all sounds impossibly pompous then don't worry - it's not. The dog and the goats provide delightful scenes which mix charm and humour with a sense of poignant solemnity. We laughed out loud at some of the antics; knowing that the behaviour of the `cute' animals provided a counter-point to the inevitable progression of life unto death - but that didn't make those scenes any less funny. The humans can be ridiculous also: cutting down a giant pine in order to strip its bark and then re-erect in the town square as a fake tree... some religious rituals will never look quite the same again after watching QV.
The filming itself is masterful, too. There's one gob-smacking extended shot which involves Dog trying to attract attention from passers-by while his master lies dying. Dog runs back and forth along the lane, the camera slowly panning *ahead* of his movement, while the goats bleat and their bells chime. The scene ends in a moment of total slapstick, when Dog causes a lorry to roll uncontrolled to crash into the goat pen and release the animals. When you stop chuckling, you understand that this had to happen to allow the goats to witness their master's passing...

There are some segments of QV which drag a little, but very few (although the director got maximum value from the adorable kids playing in the goat-pen). You may well finish watching QV and wonder about how all of it makes sense: it certainly bears discussion and a second or third viewing to understand how all the threads meld together. QV is set in the modern world, but the cobbled streets and whitewashed walls of the Italian village could have been filmed fifty years ago; it speaks of the timelessness of life, death, and rebirth.
Recommended if you enjoy a little uncertainty, and are entertained by visual splendour.
9/10
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on 6 April 2012
I don't know much about arty type films, but here is my impression of Le Quattro Volte.

First of all, if you want comedy, then just take a look at the 1 star reviews for this film. Hilarious. 'Worst documentary ever', 'fails to create a sense of reverence for such a mundane existence'.

This film is moving. Life itself is fragile, life is tough and life goes on. Its not about farming. To look at this speechless, beautiful, subtle film and think its just about goats is quite superficial to say the least! I would say it verges on idiotic, but if you have never watched a film that isn't slap bang or simply hands its meaning to you on a plate, then Le Quattro Volte would seem a bit boring, a bit mundane.

In fact, I spent so much time looking at the details in this film, the 88 mins past like a breeze and I was left almost breathless in the end as the film concludes.

It is simply a pure story...excellent.

Finally though, I would recommend it to someone who feels they can appreciate life through a cinema screen. However, if you are looking for a action-packed blockbuster then its not for you - even though I would argue there is more action in this pretty little film than a thousand blockbusters! :)
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Lets say straight from the start that if you do not like slow moving films, then this one is most definitely not for you. If you like a uniquely subtle film that is stunningly shot in the rural idyll of Calabria in Southern Italy, then you may get as much enjoyment out of it as I did. Milanese director Michelangelo Frammartino explodes that old W C Fields myth about never working with children and animals and gets an oscar deserving performance from an old sheep dog that Rin Tin Tin would have been proud of, and magically shows us what naturally gifted performers we have in goats. After watching this I had palpitations when I discovered that the the Calabrians use them in their favourite dish, although I have to admit that goat did taste good curried in the Caribbean! The film starts with funeral like slowness and doesn't really get much quicker than a tortoise on mild steroids, but it does slowly draw you into a sort of Calabrian drowsiness where in half dreams you start to see the bigger picture, and when you do, bam you love it.

The film is set in a very rural medieval looking Calabrian hill town, about as far removed from the sophistication of Milan that you could imagine! An old shepherd dies, and a goat is born. The goat dies and .......! Are you getting the picture? The director himself talked about reincarnation, although I personally think that the words from "The Lion King" sum it up better. We are all part of the inescapable 'cycle of life'. Quite often death leads to new life. The bones of dead animals in the Serengetti serve to nourish the rich grasses allowing further life to thrive. I don't really want to go too deeply down that road, but that is what seems to be at the heart of this film. Frammartino's own family hail from Calabria, so he was eager to set his cinematic poem to the rustic rhythms of that area. An interesting character, he is an artist who was trained in architecture and recently turned to photography. This is his second film, where he utilises all his talents to good effect.

Why do I like the film is always a good starter for ten! Well the cinematography is worthy of an artist. Frammartino has immortalised the beautiful little town of Caulonia on film. Surely a boost for tourism in this stunningly beautiful but impoverished region of Italy. Some of the scenes are magical, especially with the goats, but undoubtedly the pick is a 9 minute scene where the dog performs small miracles. I hope they gave him an extra bone for his troubles! You will know the scene I am talking about if you watch the film! Frammartino must have shown infinite patience to get the shots he did. I am a lover of fine art, although far from an expert, and I love the way Calabria is used by the director as a huge canvas to convey the passing of time and the seasons. It is funny that I recently watched Werner Herzog's wonderful documentary about the stunning cave paintings in Chauvet cave, France, which brought home to me just how much more in harmony with nature were our Paleolithic forebearers. It seems Frammartino is not so far removed from his distant ancestors who may have appreciated his vision, albeit in a somewhat changed world.
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on 16 October 2012
I ended up studying this film as part of a course at University on animals in cinema. We discussed it in relation to a kind of "circle of life" style unity in the world and the idea of all life being one. We then discussed the respective places of both man and animal in the world. But, this review is not I about how interesting and irrelevant a degree in film studies is.

Personally, I found this film quite moving. Without any real dialogue it communicated a lot of themes and concepts from reincarnation, faith and a person's place in the grand scheme of things. It has a lot of beautiful images and each of the shots in the film has clearly been well thought out and planned with regard to the overall themes and motifs.

There is easily enough to write a university-level Film Studies essay on this film. But, that being said, it is far too long. Whilst it is nice to see a broad, sweeping film, it can get tedious pretty fast. The same concepts, motifs and ideas could easily have been put into a twenty minute short and saved a lot of time, money and effort. As a feature-length piece, it honestly feels like the director is dragging it out too much.

Of course, if you're in the mood for a very thoughtful and quiet piece this is the film for you. When I first saw it I was in a foul mood and it seemed to be the perfect cure. But, when I as it on film 4 the other day I found myself being bored by it. You really need to be in the right mood to appreciate it. And, to be honest, I'm rarely in that mood. This is really not a good film for a
Friday night.

But in spite of it, I do recommend it. When I saw it the first time I got a lot out of it.
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If you enjoy films with a clear-cut plot, snappy dialogue and an obvious beginning, middle and end, then you will probably be left mildly mystified by `Le Quattro Volte'. It's very much a movie in the art house tradition, featuring subtle and beguiling filming which reveals beauty in the mundane reality of rural life, as well as in the spectacular landscape which frames each scene.

The product info about Quattro Volte suggests that you'll be watching a film about an elderly goat-herd who is close to death, and that's true in part. But his story forms just one thread of the four themes of QV, where animal, mineral and vegetable are as important to the whole as is the human component. There's no audible dialogue (so no need to worry about suitable subtitles) and at times the progression of the `plot', such as it is, can be a little obscure. Like life itself, the pace meanders through coincidence, happenstance, the interconnected nature of everything, and is punctured with sublime moments of stillness. The soundtrack reinforces the themes: Dog barks, goats bleat, an old man coughs, charcoal crackles, branches sigh in the breeze.
If this all sounds impossibly pompous then don't worry - it's not. The dog and the goats provide delightful scenes which mix charm and humour with a sense of poignant solemnity. We laughed out loud at some of the antics; knowing that the behaviour of the `cute' animals provided a counter-point to the inevitable progression of life unto death - but that didn't make those scenes any less funny. The humans can be ridiculous also: cutting down a giant pine in order to strip its bark and then re-erect in the town square as a fake tree... some religious rituals will never look quite the same again after watching QV.
The filming itself is masterful, too. There's one gob-smacking extended shot which involves Dog trying to attract attention from passers-by while his master lies dying. Dog runs back and forth along the lane, the camera slowly panning *ahead* of his movement, while the goats bleat and their bells chime. The scene ends in a moment of total slapstick, when Dog causes a lorry to roll uncontrolled to crash into the goat pen and release the animals. When you stop chuckling, you understand that this had to happen to allow the goats to witness their master's passing...

There are some segments of QV which drag a little, but very few (although the director got maximum value from the adorable kids playing in the goat-pen). You may well finish watching QV and wonder about how all of it makes sense: it certainly bears discussion and a second or third viewing to understand how all the threads meld together. QV is set in the modern world, but the cobbled streets and whitewashed walls of the Italian village could have been filmed fifty years ago; it speaks of the timelessness of life, death, and rebirth.
Recommended if you enjoy a little uncertainty, and are entertained by visual splendour.
9/10
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